Unusual Ridgeback Colors

****Please note that NO REPUTABLE BREEDER of Rhodesian Ridgebacks would attempt to breed any of these unusual colors and patterns. They do occasionally happen and REPUTABLE BREEDERS place them as pets on a spay/neuter contact. If ANYONE tries to sell you an oddly colored Ridgeback without informing you that the color is unacceptable in the show ring &/or without a spay/neuter agreement - PLEASE do not purchase a puppy from them! ****

The Ridgeback standard calls for the color “Wheaten”, but what color is that?

Wheaten is an old term, commonly used by terrier people and others to denote reddish, banded hair where the root is lighter and the tip is darker. Genetically, this banded hair is called “agouti” and is considered the “wild type”. Coyotes, wolves, foxes and raccoons are just a few animals that have “agouti” coloring.   Agouti is the gene that makes a fox have reddish hair with black tips and a coyote to have yellowish hair with black tips.

Technically, studies show that the agouti protein competes to bind on the melanocortin receptor and must sometimes win. The competition is going on as the hair is growing and which results in a hair that changes color along its length.  Little (1957) suggested that agouti is the gene that causes paler colors on the underside and dark on the back – also a Ridgeback color trait

Occasionally, a Ridgeback is born with a coloration that we wouldn’t normally call “agouti” or wheaten. This can be quite a curiosity and alarming for breeders – they assume the dogs aren’t purebred.
Brindle is a pattern of stripes,which can be red and black,fawn and black, isabella and gray. It occurs in Great Danes,Greyhounds,Boxers, et al and sometimes Ridgebacks. The K locus plays a pivotal role in coat color. This locus is a relative newcomer in our understanding of canine color, and includes traits formerly attributed by some to other genes.
The dominant allele in the series is KB, which is responsible for self-coloring, or solid colored fur in pigmented areas. This trait was formerly attributed to the Agouti (A) locus as AS, but recent breeding studies had shown this not to be the case.

Any animal with at least one KB allele will be self-colored.Any animal with at least one kbr allele, and no KB allele will be brindled on agouti background (see A locus).Any animal with two ky alleles will show agouti patterns (see A locus).

Thanks to  Jabulani RRs for this photo.
Black & Tan (solid black coat with tan points) is actually carried on the “agouti” allele and is a recessive coloration, that is, both parents must carry the recessive in order for it to show up in pups. Pictured is Shona, a purebred RR. Look how her ridge appears to be outlined! Very lovely!

To read more about the Black and Tan genetics, check out this page.

Just as there are Black and  Tans, the recessive of agouti, there is also a “recessive” of it, resulting in the Rust  body color with Tan points.

Unlike the Black and Tan, who's coloration remained the same as she aged, the Rust and Tan's coat has "wheatened out".
Thanks to Jabulani RRs for this photo.
Rust and Tan dog
Silver or gray is actually just a dilution gene acting on the body color. Puppies are born very silver ( easily recognized in these newborns) or grayish and have blue eyes. As they mature, the body color becomes less gray and more the color of a paper bag. The eyes may stay blue or become amber in color. Thanks to Kalmara RRs for the photo.
blue and normal RR
Thanks to Bonnie van der Born for the photos.
blue and normal sitting
Just as there are variations in the coat colors of “normal” RRs, there are also variations in the “dilutes”. This shows one example of a dilute and normal colored RR.
black wheaten ridgeback
Black wheaten is the rarest of these colors, however were it not for an owner’s love, black wheaten RRs might have become more common in the US. Back in the 50’s, the owners of a large kennel  in CA went to Africa to purchase RR stock. While attending a party one night, they saw a beautifully structured black wheaten dog and tried to purchase it, but the owner wouldn’t part with it.

The body appears black, but on closer inspection the lighter roots show through in all the usual places – behind the shoulders, on the side of the neck and in the britches. Also it peeks through on the undersides of the dog and remains dark on top. I hope you can see it in this photo of a very rare dog – a black wheaten Ridgeback. Thanks to AKC for the photo.


Although acceptable, the following coloration on a dog is not preferred, due to the grizzled appearance.

collie colored RR
This dog shows it's collie heritage in the body color.: Note how both this dog and the Collie have  a "widow's peak between the eyes, the darker ears and the black "ruff" or ring under the neck, also the lighter lower legs and the darker hairs on the tail. Early RRs often had white ruffs just like the Collies, but this was discouraged by minimizing the white in our standard.BTW, this is an agouti pattern, or wheaten, as the base of the hair is light and the tip darker - just darker in some areas.
collie body

The collie was in the mixture that made up the Rhodesian Ridgeback during Von Rooyen's era. This breed probably gave the RR it's superior lion hunting abilities as holding a lion "at bay" is a herding behavior. According to some histories, Von Rooyen said the best dog he ever bred was a Collie -RR mix, because not only would it hunt, it would go out and herd the livestock as well.

This puppy exhibits a condition known as "mosaic". This is a result of a mutation occurring in the skin cells of the embryo.

This is the same dog as an adult. Notice he has "wheatened" out on the body color, although the mosaic pattern persists.

pup with irish spotting gene expressed
Thanks to Barbara Turpin for this photo of a client's pup
This pup shows the expression of a full "Irish spotting " gene  pattern.
In Ridgebacks, we try and breed this to a minimum, but sometimes
it comes out. Irish spotting shows in the white legs, tail tip, undersides, chest, neck and around the neck with white on the muzzle and sometimes a blaze.

Breeds normally exhibiting this coloration would be Collies, Sheltis, Corgis, Boxers, AmStaffs, Boston Terriers and many others.

Want to read more about canine colors? Click here Dog Coat Color Genetics

There are genetic tests for coat color in Ridgebacks! If you are interested, go to VetGen

If you have an odd colored Ridgeback, not shown here and can identify the color ( and hopefully, tell us about the genetics of it), just email me at Kalahari RRs. Please email me first, BEFORE sending a photo.

***I have no plans to add any other photos of colors already on this page and I do not collect photos of additional dogs.


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